It is the Monday after Easter and as I write I am looking into the rearview mirror of our weekend, both literally and figuratively. My family introduced me to this cool feature in our new (to us) van, a drop-down fisheye mirror which allows the adults in the front seats to see all the passengers in the rear. In their defense, not every one of my children realized I was snapping this picture but I still love the togetherness it captures. Also, the reminder of God's goodness as all eight of us are comfortably seated in a trustworthy vehicle for the first time in many months!
The direction of our travels on the Friday afternoon of Easter weekend was to the home of Chilean friends Ricardo and Natalia and their daughter Emilia. The latter is our son Silas' classmate and arguably his best buddy! We'd finally aligned busy schedules for a cookout and time to catch up with one another, and to get to know another young family who attends church with them and whose son Mateo recently joined the other two kids in preschool. The afternoon was surprisingly breezy and cool, but the companionship was warm as we caught up on each other's lives and especially the excitement of Emilia's new baby sister due this July.
The picnic area we used was a small circle set amidst the parking lot of our friends' apartment building. While there was not a whole lot for our older kids to do, I appreciated their supervision of the littler ones on the small play set so the adults could talk, and their allowing me to coax them into yet another picture of our "Sweet Six." At one point, I got a chuckle out of the boys' efforts to entertain themselves when I found them crouched around a game of tic-tac-toe sketched into the sand at their feet! The time with friends ended all too soon, as our family had a prior commitment to another special event. We would be hosting our first Good Friday service with the church plant that evening.
Unfortunately, Silas' hard-played day got the best of him and he literally and inexplicably conked out on the less-than-comfortable stair steps at home after being dressed for church! Nonetheless we bundled him, sleeping, into the car as there was no other option for him that evening. It was the first time our church plant had met in the rented sede in the evening, and the cool night lent a different air of relaxation and expectation to our time together. Several visitors joined us, including friends from a sister church who did not have a Good Friday service planned. We were especially blessed by the arrival of our next-door neighbor, Jacqueline. Our daughter Isabel and new colleague Jenn had practiced a special number together with Isabel on keyboard and Jenn singing. Pedro shared a devotional and closed the service with their song. They did a great job! After the service, our friend Catalina came home with us to spend the night and next day with our family.
Perhaps the nicest surprise of the holiday weekend was the absence of workmen next door, where the demolished neighboring house has been undergoing a busy, dusty, noisy process of rebuilding for the past ten months (with no end in sight.) Thus we were able to enjoy hosting our own chaotic crowd of nineteen people for a Chilean-style cookout with steak, chicken, and sausage on the grill, accompanied by multiple salads and Aunt Pam's classic cheesy potatoes. Our guests were the Sharps; Jenn Taylor; Catalina; the Diaz Castillo family; and two new acquaintances, Russell and Stacey. The latter couple were in large part responsible for this gathering, as I recently happened to overhear them speaking English at an Indian restaurant near FLORECE and reached out to meet them. Each of our other guests were invited due to our commonality in speaking English and a desire to make Russell and Stacey, as newcomers to Iquique, feel welcome. It was a blessing indeed to learn that not only were they fellow Americans, but also fellow believers. We enjoyed the afternoon and evening with so many special friends!
And finally, Easter morning with its beautiful sunshine arrived. Our church service itself was simple, with merely a few meaningful songs sung karaoke-style with YouTube backgrounds. Pastor Jon began his continuation of our study of the gospel of John with the emotional news from Sri Lanka, where three churches were tragically bombed during their Easter services. It was a sobering reminder that just as Christ suffered, so too may His followers. Following the sermon, Pedro then had the privilege of explaining and leading our first Lord's Supper with the new church plant. Our time together concluded with food and fellowship, and multiple conversations taking place as people continue to beautifully build relationships within this small congregation.
After a busy weekend, as a family we had set aside Sunday afternoon for rest and time devoted just to the eight of us. Pedro grilled some delicious chicken to accompany leftovers from the day before. Conversation and laughter spilled around the table, especially in relation to language blunders as we explained the definition of the word "marinated" (which come to find out, sounds awfully close to the word "urinated!") Fortunately, Silas was again quite tired and fell asleep with little resistance, allowing the rest of us to watch a movie I'd long wanted to see and which seemed especially appropriate to the date: Risen, with Joseph Fiennes.
What I loved best about watching the movie together were the tender revelations of such pain and passion contained in the Easter story. Introducing a fictional character into the well-known scenes of the Biblical gospels allowed us as viewers to see the stories afresh through his questioning eyes. The movie engaged the hearts and imaginations of our children, granting them a deeper understanding of the humanity of Christ's disciples as simple, fearful yet transformed men upon the resurrection of Jesus! I can't think of a better way to end what was truly a tender Easter weekend.